From the Desk of Ed Hume: Flowering Kale

October 7, 2009 at 12:00 AM Leave a comment

It’s that time again for advice from your favorite gardener!  This week’s column comes from our extensive library at www.humeseeds.com.  If you have yet to check out our gardening library, why not check it out now?

Flowering Kale

Quite often we overlook some of the really showy plants for seasonal color in the garden.  One such plant is the beautiful flowering kale, which has very attractive leaves in late summer, fall and early winter.

The attractive leaves of this plant range in shades of pink, rose, magenta and white to creamy-yellow.  The outer leaves are often in shades of blue-gray-green to bronze.  The two-toned or multi-colored leaves are really outstanding.  Leaf color usually intensifies after a light fall frost.  The broad leaves are usually wrinkled along the edges, giving the plants an attractive, ruffled appearance

Flowering kale is a species of the kale family, but is also known as a flowering cabbage.

Very decorative in the garden, the attractive leaf heads are also showy in flower arrangements in the home.  Some home gardeners find it a good practice to pot up the plants in late fall for use as indoor flowering plants and as decorative holiday plants.

This plant has unlimited uses in the landscape.  It is attractive for borders or can be used very effectively in group plantings of three, five or more.   One of the most effective combination plantings I have noticed was a white alyssum border, dwarf blue lobelia as a secondary border, and flowering kale in the center or background.  A few years ago, I saw an entire parking strip planted with flowering kale.  The display was outstanding and could be seen from two to three blocks away because of the brilliant colors.

Flowering kale is a good plant to use in containers or window boxes.  When they are grown in six or seven inch pots, it is easy to move them from one area to another for seasonal color.  For example, one week they can be used in the entry area; another week they can brighten the patio or deck.  They are also colorful in low rockeries or rockery outcroppings.  Actually, they will thrive in a sunny or semi-shaded spot anywhere in the garden.

The plants grow about a foot-and-a-half to two feet high under normal growing conditions.  For best display, plants should be set about twelve to eighteen inches apart.

Simple to grow, they are usually stated from seed in late spring.  Once the seedlings are established, they are transplanted into a permanent planting spot.  They are not fussy about soil, as long as it is well drained. However, for container or pot culture, they prefer a loose, friable, sandy loam soil with peat moss added.

When you prepare the soil for planting, it is a good practice to give them a helping hand by mixing peat moss, compost, or leaf mold with the existing soil.  Also, mix a well-rotted organic manure or all purpose rose or garden type fertilizer with the soil.  Although they are not fussy, they will grow better if given nutrients at planting time.

Flowering kale also benefits from summer feeding of a liquid, all-purpose or fish fertilizer.  A couple feedings during the summer should be sufficient.

Actual growing conditions and requirements are about the same as those for growing cabbage.  Their biggest enemy is aphids, which you can control with an organic insecticide.  Slugs should also be eliminated in areas where flowering kale is grown.

Large sized flowering kale plants, in pots or containers, are available in the fall at many nurseries, garden centers, and garden departments in this area.  Fall is a good time to buy them because you can select them for their leaf color.  They can be set out in the garden or can be put in pots for use as container plants.

Take time out this fall to become acquainted with the showy flowering kale.  It is a fine plant to add color to your garden during the fall and early winter months.

Stay tuned this Friday for our clip of the week.  Also, expect some special Halloween posts coming up soon.  Happy gardening!

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Podcast Mondays: Flowering Kale and Cabbage Clip of the Week: Flowering Cabbage and Kale

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